Sunday, January 16, 2022

MSC Meraviglia Cruise Review - 16 January 2022


 
MSC Meraviglia Cruise Review

Just the Facts:
Ship:  MSC Meraviglia, first of its own MSC class @ 176,000 tons.
Sailing:  January 16, 2022 - 4 day cruise - Sailing out of Port Canaveral
Captain:  Masimiliano Rossi    Cruise Director: Sarah Rossi
Ports: Port Canaveral, FL - Nassau Bahamas - Ocean Cay, Bahamas

I am sailing with the Dear Wife, a rarity of late.  We have a premium balcony and beverage package so a fun short get away cruise.  This is my 6th cruise on the MSC Meraviglia, my 15th MSC cruise, and my 171st cruise overall.

Day One -- Sunday --  January 16th, 2021 -- Port Canaveral  — Embarkation 
The day began early at the Florida Villa with an early thunderstorm and heavy rain. We delayed leaving until the weather front had moved across most of central Florida, ruling out the 10:30 scheduled arrival time. It’s a fairly easy drive to Port Canaveral and we were away about 8:15 am. This is my third time driving to this port so becoming more familiar with it. We arrived at Cruisetime Parking & Shuttle ($45) on Merritt Island about 11:00 am and soon on a shuttle to the ship. We carried our bags as usual and was through Security easily, but next was something new…EVERYONE had to take a new Rapid-antigen covid test, even though everyone had just had one within 48 hours. They had a lot of testing stations but still a big job to test everyone. After the test, we had to wait from 20-30 minutes for the test results. Once you are confirmed as negative you then proceed to the MSC check-in. It was 1:00 pm before we got on the ship. Fortunately, not many guests sailing so the process could have been much worse…overall not a deal-breaker experience. We went directly to our aft-facing balcony on deck 12 and dropped our bags, then to the Lido Marketplace buffet on Deck 15 for lunch. You have to show your Sail&Sign card to enter and they take your temperature as well. The staff serves you your food selections some of which are pre-plated so you do get a tray for your visit to the food stations. I had Roast Beef for the Carving Station with Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli, a Green Salad, a Cole Slaw salad, and a selection of small desserts. Terry had Pizza, a custom Green Salad, and Cheese. It was a very good lunch. We did a walkabout as this is Terry’s first time on the Meraviglia. We walked the two levels of the beautiful Promenade deck and settled at the Champagne Bar for several cocktails while we waited for the scheduled afternoon Boat Drill. It is different, you watch a safety film on the TV then dial in a code on the phone from your cabin. You do have to go to your assembly area, but only to have your card scanned…we went to Muster Station K located in the Carousel Lounge at 5:00 … easy peasy. We then went up to the Sky Lounge on deck 18 for the sail away and cocktail. About 7:00 we went to dinner in the Waves Restaurant. My favorite waiter Julius was home, but Pru was there and came by to visit. We had a nice dinner and then went to the Broadway Theater for the production show: Meravigloso Amor,(photo above) it was very good! All in Italian. Unfortunately, they had two fewer singers and fewer dancers than just last month. Not sure if it is a cut-back or if covid protocols are thinning the available entertainers. The final number was Con Te Partiro is always Amazing! It was an interesting embarkation day on the MSC Meraviglia.

Day Two -- Monday --  January 6th, 2021 -- Nassau, Bahamas  
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well and later than usual. We were so busy yesterday we never really unpacked or set up the cabin so did so this morning. Our cabin is a larger family balcony with a bathtub and bunk beds set up in a separate space. I’m using that area as my closet/dressing area. The DW can have the closet/wardrobe. A unique floor plan for this premium balcony cabin. We went to breakfast in the Marketplace Restaurant at about 10:00ish. It was not busy at all, we had fried eggs, an omelet, bacon, danish, croissant, sausage, milk, and assorted fruit. We did a walkabout stopping in the Solarium Bar for a Bloody Mary, still, a lot of spaces for the DW to see on the Meraviglia. We estimate the guest count at under 800 guests after confirmations from reliable sources. We will enjoy the service. We had cabin time and watched us approach Nassau about noon, we have no plans to get off the ship here. About 2:00 we went down to Hola’s for snacks: Guacamole to order, Pico de Gallo & Chips, El Champo (bean & cheese dip), and a Carne Asada taco. After another walkabout, we made reservations at the steakhouse and had cabin time. We watched a movie: 
Mary Queen of Scots from the good selection of videos on demand on MSC. We enjoyed watching the various cruise ships sail away from Nassau…the aft balcony is ideal for it…Celebrity Edge, Caribbean Princess, and finally the Mardi Gras. The Mardi Gras seems to be everywhere I go lately. We went to the Edge Cocktail Bar at Deck 6 Atrium for aperitifs about 6:30 pm, we sat by the Swavorski steps and enjoyed watching the guests and listening to the piano music from Deck 5. We went to the The Butchers Cut Steakhouse for our 7:30 dinner reservation and decided to eat outside along the Promenade, The LED screen ceiling light was the New York skyline so very nice. My 6th time to eat here and I don’t recall eating out, but I also had a lovely date so it was all special. Dinner was delicious. We each had the wonderful Hearts of Palm with Avacado salad and assorted bread. I had the Filet Mignon and a NY Strip Steak with Onion Rings as a side dish. Terry had Macaroni & Cheese and a Creme Spinach…that she enjoyed. For dessert a Strawberry Cheesecake and Chocolate Lava Cake with Ice Creme. It was a great meal and the service excellent. Since we sat in both the Atrium area and the Promenade tonight it was very noticeable that there is more crew on board than guests. We enjoyed a stroll back to the cabin and retired. It was a great day on the MSC Meraviglia.
 
Day Three -- Tuesday -- January 7th, 2021 -- Ocean Cay Marine Reserve,  Bahamas 
Smooth seas overnight and I slept well. We arrived at Ocean Cay by 9:00 am but I’m no longer a beach nor beach games person so it not rushing anything this morning. We went to the Marketplace for breakfast at about 9:30 am. They have bacon and both scrambled and fried eggs available on the buffet as well as custom omelets. I had an omelet, danish, bacon, fruit, potatoes, and hot milk. After breakfast, we went onto the island and did a nice walkabout. The architecture was a Key West or southern plantation shutter style. The Lagoon is an ideal place to swim with beautiful beaches. We sat at sunset beach (no swimming) on the south side enjoying the direct Atlantic waves for a time then walked over to the Lighthouse and Lighthouse Bar where we sat and enjoyed Mojito cocktails and the beautiful views of the various blue colors of the water. We were also entertained by two Pelicans diving for fish and the view of the ship and island. About 1:30 we walked over to Seakers Food Court for the Island Buffet. We had two unique Island Salads, one with Rice, Sweet Potatoes, & Veggies, The other with Couscous, Pineapple, and Veggies. I also had Fruit, Jerk Chicken, and Ribs. We had Brownies & Banana Bread for dessert. It was a great Island luncheon with a view of the main swimming lagoon. One of the reasons for such a wonderful island day was that the weather was nice and cool even with the bright sun. A perfect day. We went back to the ship and had Cabin time and a nap. At 7:15 pm we went down to Waves Restaurant for dinner, it was French night but I ordered the Green Grilled Asparagus with Pancetta Chips, The Rigatoni Meatballs as my Pasta starter, the Chicken coq-aux-vin entree, and Warm Apple Strudel for dessert. The Rigatoni and sauce were excellent. After dinner, we walked back onto the island and I enjoyed a Mojito as we waited for the 9:00 pm light show at the Lighthouse. It was a nice show and stroll but as it was getting cool we returned to the ship and soon retire for the evening. It was a great day at Ocean cay.
 
Day Four -- Wednesday --  January 8th, 2021 -- Ocean Cay Marine Reserve,  Bahamas 
We were docked overnight and I slept very well.  We slept with the balcony door open to enjoy the cooler temperature and slight ocean breeze.  Did some online work before breakfast.  I went to breakfast in the Waves Restaurant and had Eggs Benedict with Bacon and Potatoes. I did have my Hot Milk and Danish this morning.  I went to the Marketplace and picked up some items: Fruit Bowl with Cranberries, Danish, and Cheeses to take to the cabin for the DW.  Balcony time the rest of the morning, the waters have so many shades of blue here at Ocean Cay.
 
 
 

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Brilliance of the Seas Cruise Review - January 8, 2022

  Brilliance of the Seas Cruise Review

Just the Facts:
Ship:  Brilliance of the Seas,  RCL Radiance Class, Launched Dec. 2001 @ 90,000 tons.
Sailing:  January 8-12, 2022 - 5 day cruise - Sailing out of Port of Tampa, Florida
Ports: Tampa, FL / Cozumel, Mexico / Puerto Maya, Mexico / Tampa, FL.
 
I am sailing as a solo guest.  This is my 2nd cruise on the Brilliance of the Seas, my 30th Royal Caribbean cruise, and 170th cruise overall.

 

Day One -- Saturday -- January 8th, 2022 -- Port of Tampa — Embarkation 

This is the overall easiest embarkation day I have ever experienced (other than the 2nd leg of a B2B cruise) in my long history of cruise travel. The day began about 8:30 am at the Florida Villa when I began packing for my cruise. I have plenty of time as boarding doesn’t even begin for the Brilliance until noon and it’s less than an hour's drive to the port in Tampa. Although I have cruised from Tampa in the past, this is my first time driving to this port. I left the Villa about 10:30 am and arrived at the Channelside Parking Garage ($48) by 11:30 and literally walked across the street to the port terminal. Very few were in line and most were early and sent to designated holding lines to wait for their assigned boarding times…I walked directly to the entry. After a brief health screening, it was to security for bags and carry-ons. Then to the Royal Caribbean agents for the last health screening and boarding identification. Never had to stop and went from station to station with ease. Within a few minutes of completing the process, they opened the ship at noon and I went aboard. Cabins were to open at 2:00 pm but since I rolled my bag on I wanted to drop it off…luckily my cabin was ready so I stayed and unpacked. I love my balcony upgrade location on deck ten forward. Just one deck below the Solarium, Swimming Pools, and the Windjammer buffet. I had a nice lunch: Steak, Prime Rib, and Stir-fried Vegetables in the Windjammer, then went to set up my internet Wifi on deck 4 (15% discount today). Boat drill is super easy, just watch the video on the Royal Caribbean App, then go to your Muster Station and have your card scanned. Easiest boat drill of the three lines I have sailed since the restart. After relaxing in the cabin/balcony I went down to the Solarium and had a snack…a nice roast beef sandwich on a roll. I went to the Solarium Bar to inquire about the perks for Diamond+ as I know they have changed…we now get five drinks per day, any time of the day, loaded on our Sign & Sail card. No longer unlimited drinks at the D+ lounge, but seems fair enough to me. Glad I inquired early as I had two Welcome Cocktails with Marsha at the Solarium Bar. I have heard from a source that there will be less than 900 guests, but we will know soon after sail away. It makes it very nice for the guests who are on board. The Carnival Pride sailed away at 5:00 pm and we followed about 15 minutes later. It was very nice sailing away from the port at sundown. I went up to the Diamond Club located on Deck 13 in the Viking Crown Lounge. They have a very nice Hors-d'œuvre Bar (they serve you) and Cocktail Service. Yes, they serve from your 5 daily drinks. I enjoyed two Cosmopolitans as we approached and sailed under the famous Sunshine Skyway Bridge (photo above). I was nicely lit up at night. I have now sailed under it more times (3) than I have driven over it (2). About 7:15 pm I went down to the Windjammer for dinner. I had a nice Salad, Baked Potato, and a wonderful thick Prime Rib that I had cut at the Carving Station and then grilled on the hot grill in the Burger/Deli section. They did a perfect grill over an open flame for me, it even had ideal grill marks…perfect and delicious. I splurged with two pieces of pie for dessert: Key Lime and Boston Creme. I then retired to the cabin to watch the Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles football game. It was a great and easy embark day on the Brilliance of the Seas.
 
Day Two -- Sunday --  January 9th, 2022 -- Day at Sea
Smooth seas overnight and I slept well and late. I updated this blog this morning and then went to the Windjammer for breakfast at about 10:30 am. Shane, the greeter, scans your card as you enter and she called me by name remembering me from last evening. She was dressed in a very unique sequined jacket last night and as Snow White this morning…very personable and perfect for this job. Not busy at all so I ordered an omelet from the Omelet Station, they give you a number then bring you the fresh hot omelet to your table. I got Fresh Fruit, Bacon, and sliced Ham from the carving station. All good. I then went to Guest Services to get a hole punched in my Sail&Sign card (as were others), I wish they were pre-punched. Then stopped by the Voom WiFi desk on deck 7 to get my iPhone added so that I could do secondary security log-in on several internet accounts. They were very helpful. I also had the guest count confirmed at 883 guests. Very nice for those of us sailing on this cruise, so easy to get service with so few guests. Juan, my cabin Steward, had my cabin cleaned by the time I returned. I am a very happy cruiser so far.  I had cabin and balcony time most of the day.  I went on a walkabout and the outer decks are busy but not full, the guests are enjoying the low passenger count.  I watched some NFL football at the outdoor Rita’s Cantina, I like the concept here as does the crew as there were a lot there on break.  I had a late lunch in the Windjammer, they had my favorite small Pork Cutlets that I enjoy.  Today I had two with Mashed potatoes, Salad and Vegetables.  Hopefully, they will have them again as they are great for making a sandwich too.  I went to the Solarium Bar to have a cocktail with Marsha, not busy at all.  I enjoyed a nice sunset from the balcony before going up to the Windjammer for dinner.  I had a small mixed Salad, Mashed Potatoes, Green beans. and the Lamb from the Carving Station.  The Lamb, with Mint Jelly, was excellent.  The Carrot Cake for dessert was very good.  After dinner I went to Vintages, the cocktail bar and enjoyed two Cosmopolitans with Suzy, and meeting guests.  I went to the feature show in the Pacifica Theater featuring Mark Preston (photo above).  Preston is a former member of the Letterman musical trio and was backed by the nine piece Brilliance Orchestra.  A full ship orchestra is a rarity on ships now days.  It was an excellent Vegas style musical show.  I did stop back by Vintages for a Elderflower cocktail nightcap before retiring for the evening.  It was an easy enjoyable day on the Brilliance.
 
Day Three -- Monday -- January 10th, 2022 -- Cozumel, Mexico 
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. We were already docked in Cozumel when I woke this morning. Fortunately, we are docked near downtown at Punto Langosta since there are two Royal Caribbean ships filling the International pier. Nice for me since I always go into San Miguel and today I will save the taxi fare. After updating my blog and doing Monday morning business online, I went up for breakfast. I was almost the only guest since it was late on a port day. I had a very nice fresh Omelet, Bacon, Hash Browns, and Fruit. It was almost 11:00 before I debarked and walked to town. Five ships today but I doubt they are anywhere near full, who was full was my Barber, I took a number and spent 40 minutes in the Church before getting in the Barber chair. All good though, as I always stop at the church. It was afternoon before I got to Woody’s Bar & Grill but I was able to get my table 7. Just a few minutes later the sky’s opened up and it was pouring rain…Woody’s then filled up as they have both indoor and outdoor seating. The live music Duo was out of luck until the rain stopped, but did the rest of their sets, pretty good too. I started back early stopping at a few shops along the way. Easier walking back in the cooler weather and ocean breeze. I had some restful cabin time and enjoyed watching the various ships sail away before going down to Vintages Bar on Deck 6. I enjoyed my Cosmopolitan cocktails and listened to some great vintage music from the Atrium below. I then went to dinner in the Windjammer and they had a good variety this evening. I had Turkey from the Carving Station, Grilled Pork Cutlets, Mashed Potatoes, Steamed Vegetables, small Mixed Greens Salad, and Key Lime Pie for dessert. It was a very good meal. I just made the kickoff of the NCAA National Championship football game on the Big Screen on Lido Deck on the way to my cabin. At half-time, I quickly got two cokes and some pizza & cookies from the special snack area set up for the game on the Lido deck. It’s nice being just one deck below.  Congratulations to the winner: The University of Georgia.  I'm looking forward to Oklahoma joining the SEC.  It was a good day in Cozumel and on the Brilliance.

Day Four -- Tuesday --  January 11th, 2022 -- Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico 
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well and late as we were again docked at the port before I got up and around. I went up to Solarium and got some light breakfast snacks (faster than room service, only one deck up) and ate on the balcony overlooking the aft pool of the Carnival Mardi Gras docked next to us. Coincidently I had just booked the Mardi Gras last evening during the game. I reviewed that and other bookings this morning before going ashore about 11:00 am. I just stayed in the Port area not going into Mahahual as usual. The commercially built Port has improved over the years. There are nice Souvenir & Gift Shops, Attractions such as Dolphins, Flamingos, & Parrots, and Restaurants & Bars. I bought some items and had a few beers before returning to the ship. I had a late lunch in the Windjammer, I took the Pork Tenderloin from the carving station, some freshly baked bread, got condiments and French Fries from the grill, and make some great custom Pork Sandwiches. A trick I learned on this ship during a long Transatlantic cruise. I then had a mojito at the Solarium Bar before returning to the Cabin for nap time. It was Italian night in the Windjammer so I went all Italian: Chicken Parmesan, Linguini Bolognese, Arancini, Eggplant Parmesan, Green Salad, with Tiramisu and Cannoli for dessert. It was good but not as good as Joey’s my local Italian place. I enjoyed two Cosmopolitans at Vintages before going to the theater for the 9:15 feature show Center Stage. It was a full Vegas-style production show with the Brilliance Singers & Dancers, the Orchestra, and several of the other feature entertainers. A very good variety of music and themes. Very entertaining and worth attending. After the show a nightcap before retiring for the evening. It was a nice day in port and on the Brilliance.

Day Five -- Wednesday --  January 12th, 2022 — Day at Sea
Smooth seas overnight. I woke early and did some work online as the WiFi has been generally so slow, but a bit quicker in the early morning hours. I went to the Windjammer for a very nice breakfast and Shane, the greeter/scanner/washy-washy girl had on another unique outfit this morning (photo). I had a great fresh Omelette, Bacon, Ham, Grapefruit, Hash Browns, Toast, and Milk. I ate outdoors on the back of deck 11 and enjoyed the morning sea air. Juan had cleaned my cabin after my morning walkabout, I have enjoyed the twice daily cabin service, something I had forgotten. Housekeeping, over the entire ship, is excellent, I haven’t experienced a ship this clean since I returned to cruising. I had a nice morning nap, but I did get up early. The weather is nice and sunny and guests are enjoying the outer decks. About 1:30 I went to the Park Cafe for two great Roast Beef Sandwiches (Au Jus, Spicy Mayo, Horseradish) on Baguette Rolls. They finally had Oatmeal Raisin Cookies today too, my favorite of Royal Caribbean’s signature cookies. So back to the cabin with three cookies and a Coke for dessert. I was able to get in some balcony time and enjoy the sea air once some shade appeared and it cooled a bit.  I watched some Television this afternoon, there are live News and Sports available in addition to movies. A much better selection than Carnival. I did watch Band Pitt’s 2019 movie Ad Astra, it was good.  I went up to Vintages Bar for my cocktails and it was fun tonight, I had my five cocktails plus one to use up the balance of my OBC on the Sail Account. By 9:00 pm I had a choice of the Final Show in the theater or dinner and went with food. I had Roast Beef, Green Salad, Mashed Potatoes, Steamed Vegetables, and a partial Mississippi Mud Cake for dessert. I did not eat in the Main Dining Room this entire cruise, I like the MDR venues on Royal Caribbean, they are much nicer than say Carnival, but the Windjammer is convenient. They also have theme menus and the food is very good. After dinner, I retired to the cabin. It was a very relaxing day at sea on the Brilliance of the Sea.

Debarkation — Thursday --  January 13th, 2022 -- Port of Tampa 
Smooth seas overnight, but sleep was sporadic. I was actually up when we went under the Skyway Bridge about 3:45 am so took some photos. I was packing about 5:30 and about 6:30 I went to the Windjammer for breakfast.  Debark scheduled for 7:45 am but I noticed guests on the gangway about 7:10 am so i went to the elevator to head for deck 5, as I was in the elevator they made an announcement about self-debark so I was out the door and on the gangway strait away @ 7:15 am.  Walked to the parking garage and in the car by 7:30, hit the road and at the Villa in Pasco County by 8:15 am in time to walk the dog.  Amazingly easy debark.

Personal HIGHLIGHTS of the Cruise
Food in the Windjammer - especially the Grilled Prime Rib
Vintages Bar, Bartenders, and the Regulars…
Production Show: Center Stage
Cozumel Port Day
Costa Maya Port Day
Mark Preston




Sunday, December 12, 2021

Carnival Magic Cruise Review - December 12, 2021


 Carnival Magic Cruise Review

Just the Facts:
Ship:  Carnival Magic,  Dream class @ 128,000 tons.
Sailing:  December 12, 2021 - 7 day cruise - Sailing out of Port Canaveral, Florida
Captain:  Rosario Arena
Cruise Director: Gary
Ports: Port Canaveral, FL - Amber Cove, Dominican Republic / St. Thomas, USVI / San Juan, Puerto Rico / Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands, BOT

I am sailing as a solo but with Florida cruise friends.  This is my 7th cruise on the Carnival Magic, my 91st Carnival cruise, and my 169th cruise overall.

Day One -- Sunday --  December 12th, 2021 -- Port Canaveral  — Embarkation   
The day began early at the Florida Villa. It’s a fairly easy drive to Port Canaveral, but I have a 10:00 am Check-in time so I was away about 6:45 am. This was my third time driving to this port. I arrived on Merritt Island about 9:15 and made a stop at Walgreen’s for coke’s and a break as has become my routine. I was soon at Cruisetime Parking & Shuttle ($74 for 7-days) and soon on a shuttle to the ship. I carried my rolling duffle bag as usual and was through Security, then Health Screening, and lastly the Carnival Agent in good order. My timing was perfect at all stations but had a wait of 45 minutes (not a problem at all) in the VIP lounge due to a long debarkation of the previous cruise. We boarded at 11:15 am and I dropped my bag at the cabin by 11:30 am. I have a Balcony Cabin on deck 8. I went to the Mongolian Grill on Deck 10 Lido Marketplace for lunch, a very hardy Stir-fry bowl (photo) then had a slice of Elderflower cake for dessert. Very nice. After lunch, I got my Sign & Sail card from the cabin and went to my muster station E-4 for easy check-in. Then to the Red Frog Pub for Happy Hour. They do the Plastic-pitcher system for the Fishbowl (as does the Vista) so I ordered a Jamaican Sunrise. I then ran into my Cruise friends in the Ocean Plaza who had boarded and gone straight to Pig & Anchor. We then all went back to Red Frog for Happy Hour. Sweet. Following ‘Happy Hour’ it was back to the cabin to unpack and a little rest. The cabin is very nice with a lot of storage areas. Very comfortable especially for a solo. Sail away was very nice from my balcony, I was on the ‘best’ side for once. Nice sailing by the Disney Fantasy, the MSC Meraviglia, and the Odyssey of the Seas on our way out to sea. We have five for dinner this cruise and a nice table for us in the Southern Lights Dining Room (MDR) at the 6:00 pm seating. Tonight I ordered the Roasted Tomato Soup, the Sweet & Sour Breaded Shrimp, and a nice Broiled Strip Loin Steak, with a Fruit plate for dessert. After dinner, I enjoyed a nice cocktail prepared by Vasko at the Alchemy Bar. Also popped in for a bit of karaoke before retiring for the evening. It was an easy and enjoyable embarkation day on the Carnival Magic.

Day Two -- Monday -- December 13th, 2021 -- Fun Day at Sea

Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. I had a nice casual morning enjoying the sea view and fresh air. I had a very light breakfast from Ocean Plaza this morning, Oatmeal and Danish with milk. The seas were rolling today and more so as the day went along, at least you feel as though you’re on a ship at sea. I met the girls for the Diamond Luncheon on deck 4 of the Southern Lights Dining room. The Captain and senior staff greeted the Diamond guests as we entered and the Captain later welcomed everyone. I would guess there were 90+ in attendance. The same menu as all other Diamond Luncheons on any Carnival ships. I ordered the Fresh Tomato & Greens salad, the Premium Strip Steak, and the Tres Leches for dessert. All very good. A nice surprise was Alan my cocktail server from the Vista cruise in October, he kept the Carnival Cosmopolitan cocktails refreshed and did a special roadie just as he did in October…thanks Carnival. It was time for trivia for Team Keloray, we didn’t sweep up all the prizes as we did the last cruise, but we had FUN. Some cabin and balcony time before our 6:00 pm elegant night dinner. Very mixed attire this evening in the very full MDR, we are sailing with over 3000 guests so approaching full ships soon. For dinner, I ordered the Sicilian Meatball Soup, Spaghetti Carbonara (as a starter), the Slow Cooked Prime Rib entree, and the Vanilla Creme Brûlée for dessert. It was good. Flick was the production show in the theater tonight, but we had a comedy night attending three shows, two PG and one R, in the Punchliner Comedy Club. Ronnie Bullard (2) and Al Romero were the comedians. Between shows I did my $25 free play at the Roulette wheel…no luck tonight, but no loss either. We finished the night with Watermelon Cocktails in the Steakhouse Bar (photo above). It was a FUN sea day and a FUN evening on the Carnival Magic.
 

Day Three -- Tuesday -- December 14th, 2021 -- Amber Cove, Dominican Republic

Rolling and rocking seas continued overnight, but I slept very well. We arrived at Amber Cove by 9:00 am and docked next to the Nieuw Amsterdam. Cloudy in port, but that tends to change. I went to Lido deck and the Blue Iguana for my Breakfast. I had the Breakfast Taco with eggs, one Arepas, and watermelon. I’ve missed that breakfast…also still called Huevos Rancheros on signage on Magic. After breakfast I went ashore for a short walkabout, we were just here a week ago, but did remember to get my passport stamped this trip. The Girls and I had a Deli lunch, so I had half a Reuben and half of a BLT, with fries, Sandwiches were good, but fries not as good as Guy’s. We did 1:00 and 1:30 Trivia then Red Frog Pub for Happy Hour. What a deal for a Pitcher of Jamaican Sunset. Some more Trivia, but again several second places and no prizes. Dinner comes early when you have first seating. It was Linguini night so I ordered the Wedge Salad, the combined Meatball, and Linguini as a starter, the Strip Steak entree, and Bitter & Blanc for dessert. It was an enjoyable dinner. It was entertainment night this evening, we started in the Ocean Plaza with Beats Bunnyman as good of a soloist guitarist as I’ve heard on Carnival since Will Marion…then Acoustic Jams with Lisette and Tyler in the Lobby area. Also good. We attended the 9:30 production show of Country Road in the Showtime Theater, it was entertaining and enjoyable especially if you have Texas roots. The Girls had a brief stop in the Casino and I retired for the evening. It was a FUN day on the Carnival Magic.
 

Day Four -- Wednesday -- December 15th, 2021 -- St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Wind and choppy seas continued overnight, but I slept well I like the rocking. I had a light early breakfast in the Ocean Plaza then had a walkabout the ship. Cabin time until we docked at Havensight Cruise Pier. After walking around the Havensight shops our group of five took the basic 2+ hour Island Tour with Raymond’s Tours. It was cloudy with occasional rain but we did fine. Always nice to visit Mountaintop and enjoy the wonderful view (photo left) and have a Banana Daiquiri. We returned to the ship where all had Guy’s Burgers other than myself, I had Pizza and another BLT from the Deli. Time for the final Trivia of the day before R&R in the cabin. I went to the Alchemy Bar and had a very nice cocktail prepared by FJ, it was Absinthe based with fruit, very nice. I was able to catch Lisette & Tyler in the Ocean Plaza. It was what she called her Jazz Set and I was thoroughly impressed…she did four of my favorites from my personal Torch Music collection including Edith Piaf’s La Vie En Rose. I just listened to it on the drive to the cruise and I enjoyed her version better than Edith Piaf’s original. Tonight I met the group at La Cucina del Capitano for dinner. I ordered Il Capitano’s Signature Arancini, Il Capitano’s Favorite Insalata, the Grande Braciola Di Maiale (Grilled Tomahawk Pork Chop) entree with sides of Spaghetti with Captain’s Tomato Sauce & Gnocchi All Romana. It was all very good I would order the same again. For dessert, I had the Crostata Di Melt Con Crema Al Caramello (a flaky Apple Tart with Almond Ice Creme) which was nice. A nice enjoyable meal. After dinner, I had a Christmas project to work on…not easy as the Wifi on the Magic has not been on par with Breeze, Mardi Gras, or even the Freedom…slow and spotty. It was an interesting eclectic day in St. Thomas and on the Carnival Magic.
 

Day Five — Thursday --  December 16th, 2021 -- San Juan, Puerto Rico

Smoother seas overnight, but still rolling and I slept well. We arrived early in San Juan well before schedule, but they didn't debark until 8:00 am. Debark will go much better today, when we arrived at 11:30 in St. Thomas everyone got off the ship at once and overwhelmed the port facilities. I had a casual morning and took advantage of guests debarking to have a specialty Omelet with Bacon, Potatoes, and Grapefruit. I went off the ship by 11:00 am and headed for old town, I walked across the peninsula within sight of El Morrow Castle but not to it. Nice breeze and park with a view to rest and enjoy the view. I was basically in the Arts District area awaiting a particular craft beer tavern to open at noon, but alas it was closed today. I ended up enjoying some local beer near the old chapel and watched the tourists and the pigeons. The weather was pleasant and very slight rain but just enough to keep it fairly cool. Afterward an ice creme on the walk back to the ship, I was back onboard an hour+ before schedule. I saw the girls playing trivia in the Ocean Plaza so joined in a game before heading up to my cabin to clean up and watch the Breeze sail away. 6:00 dinner came quickly, tonight I ordered the Stuffed Mushrooms, Moroccan Pumpkin Harira Soup, Four Season Salad, the Filet Mignon entree, and the Key Lim Mousse for dessert. It was all very good. After dinner I went to the Ocean Plaza for one set of Acoustic Jams with Lisette & Taylor, then one set of Real Country with the Magic Rockband, followed by an 80s set. It was a FUN day in San Juan and on the Carnival Magic.

Day Six — Friday -- December 17th, 2021 -- Grand Turk Island, British Overseas Territories

Rolling seas continue and I slept well overnight. We don’t arrive at Grand Turk until midday so I tried to sleep as long as possible. I skipped breakfast and had cabin/balcony time all morning until guests began their debark at noon. With everyone trying to get off the ship and to the beach I went with a friend to Cucina de Capitano for a nice quiet lunch. I had the Caesar Salad, Bread, a Pasta Bowl (linguini, cherry tomatoes, sausage, and bolognese sauce), and small Lasagna. It was very good. We then left the ship to walk through the port area and the Beach area up to Jack’s Shack. They were very busy but we were able to get a table near the bar as some were returning to the ship, so my usual day plan for here was working well; however, there was a huge line for cocktails from the bar. We were patient and had a simple order of Turks Head beer and found a friendly employee who helped us out. Jack and the family were all there working away too. (photo left) The bar became less crowded and we had our Janet’s Mojito cocktail order and enjoyed watching the dogs, the guests, the employees, the beach view, and more. After a final round of beer, we began our casual barefoot walk along the surf enjoying the sunset. Most guests are off the beach by now so a very enjoyable walk back to the pier. We spoke with some musicians from the Magic Rock Band along the way. We were back on board just after 5:15 so time to clean up for 6:00 pm dinner. Tonight I ordered: Vine Ripened Tomatoes and Chopped Lettuce, Wild Rice, Gruyere and Country Chicken Soup, the Broiled Strip Loin Steak entree, and Praline Cake for dessert. It was good. Afterward, we took fresh food to our friend's cabin who is a bit under the weather today. I always like checking out the Lido Marketplace so easy to do. After dinner, it was to the Ocean Plaza and we were lucky to score two seats at the Alchemy Bar. Lisette & Tyler were just finishing their last set, then it was the Magic Rock Band for two sets. We did recieve a big wave from the stage from the guys we spoke to on the beach earlier.   FJ prepared me two different Absinthe based cocktails that I enjoyed very much. Nice to visit with new Alchemy friends as well. I retired about 11:00ish. It was a very good day walking the beach and on the Carnival Magic.

Day Seven — Saturday --  December 18th, 2021 -- Fun Day at Sea 
Still rolling seas but they rock me to sleep so I’ve been happy all cruise. I had a lazy morning then met friends for a light breakfast at the Lido Marketplace. I did a walkabout the ship then worked on end-of-the-year finances, but again the internet sucks on the Magic, not sure if it’s outdated equipment, too many users, or what, but it’s not as good as Breeze, Vista, Mardi Gras, or Freedom that I have sailed since October. I had my first Guy’s Burger for lunch, then met the girls for Christmas Trivia. Very difficult questions IMHO. I went to the Spotlight Lounge for the VIFP party @ 3:45 pm. It was packed but more manageable than in the theater, with plenty of cocktail servers too. The usual: Carnival movie, Captain’s remarks, then some Awards…there was entertainment too. There were 88 Diamond and 480 Platinum guests on board. I took away a cocktail to enjoy on my balcony…it was perfect evening weather and the seas seems to be calmer too. I do like a balcony. The final dinner of the cruise tonight was good. I ordered: Cobb Salad, Steak Ale Cheddar Soup, The Penne Mariscos pasta as a starter, the Broiled Strip Loin Steak entree, and Baked Alaska as a dessert. Of course, the waiters sang their traditional farewell songs. After dinner, we made it to the Showtime Theater for the production show America Rocks (photo above). It featured the Breeze Production Singers, Dancers, and the Breeze Rock Band. An entertaining show, but not a great show by any means. Following that we heard a set by Lissette and Tyler in the Ocean Plaza. I requested LeVie En Rose and she sang it for us, one of my all time favorites. It was a very nice final sea day on the Carnival Breeze.

 

Debarkation — Sunday — December 19th, 2021  — Port Canaveral, FL

Calmer seas overnight and I slept well but woke very early.  We were entering the channel by 4:30 am.  Interesting to see the huge cruise ships enter and dock in the early morning.  I finished packing then went to the Lido Marketplace for a nice breakfast. My group was ready early and by the time we reached the Diamond area we were able to just debark the ship.  Short wait for parking shuttle, but soon on the road.  Home by 10:15 am.  Amazing easy by having a place in Florida.

 

Personal HIGHLIGHTS of the Cruises
Traveling with Friends and making New Friends

LeVie En Rose sung by Lissette
Barefoot walk along the beach surf in Grand Cayman
Dinner at Cucina de Capitano
Mongolian Grill, Guys Burgers, & the Deli

Magic Rock Band
San Juan Port Day 



Sunday, December 5, 2021

MSC Meraviglia Cruise Review - 4 December 2021


MSC Meraviglia Cruise Review

Just the Facts:
Ship:  MSC Meraviglia, first of its own MSC class @ 176,000 tons.
Sailing:  December 28, 2021 - 4 day cruise - Sailing out of Port Canaveral
Captain:  Masimiliano Rossi
Cruise Director: Sarah Rossi
Ports: Port Canaveral, FL - Nassau Bahamas - Ocean Cay, Bahamas - Port Canaveral

I am sailing solo on a Travel Agent Familiarization (FAM) cruise.  This is my 5th cruise on the MSC Meraviglia, my 14th MSC cruise, and my 168th cruise overall.

Day One -- Sunday --  December 5th, 2021 -- Port Canaveral  — Embarkation  
The day began early at the Florida Villa. It’s a fairly easy drive to Port Canaveral, but I have a 10:00 am Check-in Time so I was away about 6:45 am. This was only my second time driving to this port. I arrived at Cruisetime Parking & Shuttle ($40) on Merritt Island about 9:30 and as soon on a shuttle to the ship. I carried my rolling duffle as usual and was through Security, then Health Screening, and lastly the MSC Agent. My timing was perfect at all stations and I was in my cabin with my bag by 10:45 am. Amazing. I have a Balcony Cabin on deck 11, very comfortable for a solo cruiser. I unpacked and set up my cabin, an easy task for a short 4-day cruise. I went to the Market Place Buffet on Deck 15 for lunch. You have to show your Sail&Sign card to enter and they take your temperature as well. The staff serves you your food selections some of which are pre-plated so you do get a tray for your visit to the food stations. I had Roast Beef for the Carving Station with Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli, a Green Salad, a Cole Slaw salad, and a selection of small desserts. It was a very good lunch. I had cabin time to learn the WiFi system and the MSC for Me application then a walk about the ship in the afternoon. The layout has come back to me...they have a new Tex-Mex restaurant on the Promenade and a secondary buffet area and Dining Room are not open...only major changes I see. Of course, we are only sailing with 800 guests and they say that is up from 600 last cruise. Very empty so no lines anywhere nor waiting for an elevator. Now is the time to cruise on MSC! I did have a Pilsner Urquell beer from the Theater Bar on the lower promenade on deck 6...they didn't have any at the Pub. Boat Drill is different, you watch it on the TV then dial in a code on the phone from your cabin. You do have to go to your assembly area, but only to have your card scanned…then it’s completed. Better than Carnival's new procedure as you learn more yet just as easy.  The great thing was that on the elevator returning from my muster station there were two great friends from Scotland on it.  A great reunion for several decks. Wow!!  I did register my credit card at a kiosk for use on your S&S card...something unique to MSC that should be done on your first day.  We had a reception for the TA’s in our group in the Sky Lounge on Deck 18, wine & beer were served and we met Christina & the Events Manager.  I excused myself from our scheduled dinner and went to then Waves Restaurant in order to see my favorite head waiter (photo).  I had Julius as a waiter for 40 days on my B2B2B2B on the Meraviglia in Fall of 2019 before the pandemic.  It was great seeing him again as well as our previous Maitre’D Mario.  I had a great meal, it was a Spanish theme so I took the three items from that menu: Spanish Delights (Chorizo, Manchego cheese, Roasted red bell peppers, Olives, and Grilled Mushrooms), the Rollo de Cochinillo y Patatas Bravas entree (primarily roasted pig & potatoes), and the Crema Catalana dessert.  I also had the Bay Scallop Ceviche.  All were excellent as was the service of course.  I intended to meet my friends at the Silent Disco @ 11:00 pm but I closed my eyes when in the cabin and fell asleep.  It was a great embark day on the MSC Meraviglia.
 
Day Two -- Monday --  December 6th, 2021 -- Nassau, Bahamas 
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  I went to breakfast in the Waves Restaurant and ordered Eggs Benedict with sides of Potatoes and Bacon, all were very good.  My Travel Agent seminar began at 9:00 am in the Business Conference Center on Deck 5.  It was interesting, time for me to start some new MSC group sailings.  I had a nice lunch in the Marketplace, no problems with the staff serving, they are efficient and you can ask for more or less of any item you choose. I had a lovely Salad, Roasted Chicken, Ratatouille, Potatoes, and a couple of the assorted mini desserts.  The afternoon session was good, the pricing structure of MSC fares have been streamlined and needed it.  My personal BDM was the presenter and it was nice to meet her.  We were taken on a nice tour of the Yacht Club at 5:00 pm.  It is much larger and improved since the Divina.  Very private area and basically a Boutique Hotel within a Cruise ship.  A beautiful Private lounge, Private Pool area, and Dining Room. Very nice.  I had a bottle of Prosecco and Cookies delivered so I relaxed on the balcony and enjoyed my own private sail away party from Nassau.  I then had a very nice evening, I went to Butcher’s Cut steak house for the best steak I have had in many years.  I ordered the Hearts of Palm Salad (with Avocado), the Filet Mignon, and the Cheesecake with Strawberries for dessert.  The four steak sauces were great and was the service.  I was very pleased.  I went to the Broadway Theater for the production show Meraviglio Amor, it was fantastic!  All in Italian.  I recognized several of the feature singers from 2019 and the new opera male lead was excellent. The final number was Con Te Partiro and it was Amazing!  A lot of activities on the ship and so easy to do a walk about with so few guests.  I returned to the cabin to rest and update this blog.  It was a good day and GREAT evening on the MSC Meraviglia.

Day Three -- Tuesday -- December 7th, 2021 -- Ocean Cay Marine Reserve,  Bahamas
Smooth seas overnight and I slept well. We arrived at Ocean Cay by 9:00 am but I’m no longer a beach nor beach games person so it not rushing anything this morning. I went to the Marketplace for breakfast at about 10:00 am. They have bacon and both scrambled and fried eggs available on the buffet. They decorated much of the ship for Christmas overnight...nice.  I did business work on the internet most of the morning then went for my first Pizza of the cruise for a late lunch. MSC is famous for the best Pizza at Sea and it was…Pepperoni and a Side Salad. I went to the island in the late afternoon and swam at the Lighthouse Beach. It was very nice and reminded me of Grand Turk. I didn’t tour the island, but I did go to the Lighthouse Bar, promoted as a ‘Hemingway Style’ bar. The architecture was a Key West or southern plantation shutter style with one photo of Hemingway, but there were NO Hemingway era drinks other than perhaps a Mojito. No live music when I was there. Good location for the sundown though. After sundown, a nice walk back to the ship, and I needed the exercise. I had dinner in the Waves Restaurant, with Julian of course. I ordered the Grilled Maryland Crab Cakes, Eleonor Salad, Breaded Chicken Kyiv, and the Tapioca for dessert. The crab cakes were amazing. Made a new friend, Prudence from South Africa, who is a Restaurant Manager and she and Julian convinced me to go ashore for the Party. I did go ashore at the right time to receive a lei and walk to the Village Bar in time to get a cocktail and see the beginning of the Junkanoo Parade. Small parade but nice, they had only one Indian but three female dancers and the musicians. It was worth seeing for sure. The Village Bar had live music and was nice. I saw my Scottish friends and made new friends then walked down to the beach for the Lighthouse light show and the Beach Party. It was very interesting. I made it back on board in time for the feature rock band, Off The Record’s show Uptown Funk in the Carousel Theater. They are a great band and a great show in a great venue. Maybe the best band at sea, but I’d love to see the Seagles in this venue. Sharing photos with friends before retiring. It was a most interesting day at Ocean Cay and on the MSC Meriviglia. 
 
Day Four -- Wednesday --  December 8th, 2021 -- Ocean Cay Marine Reserve,  Bahamas
We were docked overnight and I slept very well, best on a ship in a while. I went to breakfast in the Waves Restaurant and again had Eggs Benedict with Bacon and Potatoes. I did have my Hot Milk and Danish this morning as well as a nice fruit plate. Pru came by for her cruise story. I spent the entire morning updating this blog and working online…not planning on going ashore today. I did have some balcony time before going to lunch on the Lido deck: A Salad, Carved Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, & Snow Peas. The afternoon was cabin time, but busy not even time for the TV. I do appreciate that MSC has more television channels including sports and movies than most other cruises lines. I went to the theater for the production show WAY featuring different styles of primarily American Classic music (click on photo and check out the dancers in the background). Not as good as Meraviglio Amor but certainly worth seeing the feature dancers and singers. I then went to dinner in the Wave Restaurant and it was Italian night. As starters I ordered: the Venetian Pasta & Bean Soup, Sicilian style Arancini, and the Tri-Color Salad. My two entrees were: Lasagna Bolognese and Chicken Breast Parmigiana with Limoncello Cake for dessert…all Italian and all good. I went to the Carousel Theater at 10:30 for the 80s Disco show by Off the Record … they were good. I retired follow as it’s an early day tomorrow. An easy day for me on the MSC Meraviglia.

 Debarkation — Thursday --  December 9th, 2021 -- Port Canaveral
Smooth seas overnight. I woke about 6:00 am as we were entering the outer channel.  I then went to the Marketplace for breakfast.  Huge line to roll off express debarkation @ 7:30 am, but once started went quickly, no diamond express.  Shuttle for parking was ready and waiting.  I left the parking lot at 8:30 and arrive at the Villa in Pasco County at 11:00 am.  Very easy overall.

Personal HIGHLIGHTS of the Cruise
The Ship itself…A Beautiful Wonder.
Meraviglio Amor
Butcher’s Cut Steak House
Night Beach Party & Light show on Ocean Cay
Uptown Funk Show
Way




Sunday, November 28, 2021

Carnival Freedom 11/28/21 Cruise Review


Carnival Freedom Cruise Review

Just the Facts:
Ship:  Carnival Freedom, a Conquest Class ship sailing out of Miami
Sailing:  November 28, 2021 - 6 day cruise
Captain: Mario Imbimbo
Cruise Director: T.J. Partida - FunSquad: James
Ports: Miami, FL - Nassau Bahamas - Princess Cays, Bahamas - Amber Cove, Dominican Republic

I am sailing solo with good cruise friends.  This is my 7th cruise on the Carnival Freedom, my 90th Carnival cruise, and my 167th cruise overall.

Days Zero -- Friday - Saturday --  November 26-27th, 2021 -- Travel
The dear wife and I left the Ranch in Texas on the day following Thanksgiving  to travel to our Villa in Florida.  First stop was the Walgreen’s Pharmacy in Gatesville, Texas to get a Rapid Antigen test for this cruise.  The next 16 hours were spent driving to Pasco County Florida arriving there at 5:45 am on Saturday morning.  Thankfully an uneventful but very long drive.

Day One -- Sunday --  November 28th, 2021 -- Port of Miami  Embarkation
The day began early at the Florida Villa.  I’m sailing with cruise friends and left by 5:00 am to pick them up in St. Petersburg area. Although I have sailed from Miami many times this is the first time I have driven to the port.  It was a nice drive, my first time to drive over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and cross ‘Alligator Alley’.  By 10:00 am we were at Premier Cruise Parking: located on the 7th level of a Downtown Miami Parking Garage.  Soon we were shuttled to the port arriving by 10:30 am.  Security and check-in went smoothly and the ship was boarding guests  by the time we finished the process so we went directly onto the ship.  I dropped my roll-on duffle bag at my cabin on Lido Deck and was eating a Stir-fry from the Mongolian Grill by 11:30 am.  Sweet.  I also had a sample plate of BBQ from the BBQ location above the Lido Marketplace aft.  Time for the easy Muster Drill check-in.  You do it on Deck 4 at the actual life boat locations.   I was station A.   Now it’s time to visit the Red Frog Pub’s Happy Hour.  On Freedom you can order a Fish Bowel size drink without having to purchase the bowl..so that’s what I did ordering a Jamaican Sunrise.  The FUN begins.  I ordered a second to take back to the cabin for some cabin time and a nap.  I began receiving messages on my phone from the Parking Company…it seems my car was running in the Parking Garage.  I do have a new vehicle less than two weeks old with all types of features including turning off the engine when idling.  I know it wasn’t running when we unloaded, but suspect it may have been in idle mode and not actually turned off.  We were close to 3:30 sail away but I was able to get my KeyFob to a shuttle driver just before we sailed.  Hopefully crisis diverted, we’ll know upon return.  Security escorted me off and back on so that made it easy for me…Thanks Carnival.  My friends and I met at the Alchemy Bar for an aperitif about 6:00 pm.  A nice and large Alchemy, but seemed so slow after experiencing the very busy Breeze and Mardi Gras Alchemy Bars.  We made dinner reservations on the HUB for dining and we had a very nice table in the center of the room.  I ordered the Roasted Tomato Soup, the Sweet & Sour Breaded Shrimp, and two wonderful Broiled Strip Loin Steaks, with a Fruit plate for dessert. It was very good and the steak was surprisingly very tender.  The Freedom Band plays in the lobby area beginning at 8:00 ish so we had perfect timing and great seats to listen to their set.  Good, but not comparable to the Breeze Band.  I retired to the Cabin for needed rest, the Girls were headed to the Piano Bar and explore the ship. My first day impression is Freedom is a step-back in time…Examples: they still print out the photos, RFP fish bowls, the Muster Drill outside, old style Mongolian Grill (that I love!), and more.  Basically the same as when I first sailed the inaugural Freedom Cruise many years ago.  It was a very different embarkation day on the Carnival Breeze.

Day Two -- Monday --  November 29th, 2021 -- Nassau, Bahamas 
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well…we were docked at the Nassau pier by the time I was awake. I met the girls at Blue Iguana for breakfast. They still have the Huevos Rancheros sign so another ‘throwback’. I had my usual Breakfast Taco, Arepas, Salsas, and Watermelon. The Carnival Magic is docked next to us and I look forward to sailing on her in two weeks. There are six ships docked in total. The Girls are going to Atlantis today and I’m staying closer to the ship. I do have a balcony cabin this cruise so I enjoyed the early morning breeze and nice weather while doing some work online. About 10:30 I decided to go ashore just to get some exercise by walking. We are the closest ship to shore and we are sailing at 50% capacity (if that) so it was easy to debark and get into downtown Nassau. I was able to complete an important business call so was free to explore the rest of the day. Some businesses remain closed but most are open. Some restaurants ask for proof of vaccination. The new Straw Market looks good as do several public parks…they do seem to be improving the area. I walked to the just-opened Margaritaville Resort located just beyond the old British Colonial Hotel. (photo above) It’s very nice, I saw the Fins Up Water Park, Changes in Latitude Bar, Gift shop, and more. Since I walked this far I decided to walk the length of Junkanoo Beach to Fish Fry. I stopped at Goldie’s Conch House my favorite place for seafood in Nassau. I had the Red Snapper fried fish plate…it was great. The Kalik Superior beers were very good too. I was back on the ship by 2:30. One of the girls had a minor accident and they returned early. After a short nap, I did have dinner with them in the Lido Marketplace about 6:30 pm. Tonight I had a Mixed Salad, the Sea Bass entree and Chicken entree, a stuffed Potato, and the Mushroom Bisque Soup. For dessert a warm Apple Cobbler and a small piece of Coconut Pie. A very good meal. I did a short walk about the ship…lots of activities but just mot many guests out and about. I retired early, I’m still recovering from the long drive, It was a very nice day in Nassau.  
 

Day Three -- Tuesday -- November 30th, 2021 -- Princess Cay. Bahamas

Smooth seas overnight and I slept well. We arrived at Princess Cay very early and the tendering ashore began very early. My friends and I are staying on the ship today, I’m no longer a beach nor beach games person…most guests went, but many stayed on the Freedom. I joined my friends for breakfast in the Lido Marketplace and of the few passengers on board, they were all there. I had an omelet and potatoes, bacon, grapefruit, and sweet bread. We spent most of the day in the Lobby playing various games of Trivia. The three of us are a good team with a mixture of knowledge, we were in the running on most games and won several. James on the entertainment staff (FUN Crew) did a great job. He was personable and made it FUN. We broke for lunch at Guy’s Burgers about 3:30 pm, My first Guy’s in several cruises and since they don’t always have plain meat patties prepared they grilled mine fresh and I was able to get them to add onions while on the hot grill…getting closer and closer to a proper Oklahoma Onion Fried Hamburger. The burgers were very good!! It was back to the Lobby for a final Trivia game on Music where we medaled in the music game. Only slight help from me on that one…the girls were very good. I enjoyed a very beautiful sunset from the balcony. It was very enjoyable watching the sunset over the water and the interesting cloud formations. Cabin time until dinner in the Chic restaurant. The Maitre’D was very accommodating with our table request. The Girls had Cesar Salad, Shrimp Cocktail, and Bitter & Blanc, I had just a single entree they prepared for me combining the Linguini and Meatball appetizer. They did it in the kitchen so it was served ‘hot’ and excellent. Thank you, Chef & Waiter. I went to the casino for my Diamond $25 free play, they asked if I wanted table games (Chips) or Slots (on Card)…I asked ‘What about Cash?’… they said sure…perhaps not as Fun, but still $25 ahead. Super! I listened to the excellent String Trio, Stellaria tonight. (photo left) I enjoyed their Hotel California tune. I retired by 10:00 pm, the girls did some shopping, and perhaps Comedy Club. It was very nice. It was a FUN day onboard the Carnival Freedom. I woke in the night to the sound of waves and the sea, I had accidentally left my balcony door ajar. It was very nice!
 

Day Five -- Wednesday --  November 17th, 2021 -- Fun Day at Sea

Rolling seas overnight and I slept very well. I was up very early and enjoyed the sounds of the sea from my very comfortable bed as the sun rose early this morning. Also, an occasional Christmas song comes on the system since it’s December…I leave my ship's TV on the Map Chanel with music. A cabin on the Lido deck is very convenient to the Lido Marketplace so I ordered a nice omelet from the omelet station (no line) and took it to the Blue Iguana for various Salsas. It was great. The weather is very nice and I watched guests arrive on deck and claim their lounge chairs for the day. I had Cabin Time until the Diamond Luncheon held in the deck 4 areas of the Posh Dining Room. The Captain went from table to table to say hello. He knew all about my friends' accident, surprised her and me. We met a nice Diamond couple who have been sitting near us in the Chic dining room and decorating their booth each night with a Christmas theme. The Diamond Luncheon menu was the same as always, today I ordered the Fresh Tomato & Greens salad, the Premium Strip Steak, and the Tres Leches for dessert. All very good. The Carnival Cosmopolitan cocktails were nice too. The Alchemy Bar opened at 2:00 pm and we spent some quality time there with Alaiksandr. He prepared a very nice absinthe cocktail that I found to be unique and enjoyable. Met new Alchemy friends we met up with later in the Red Frog Bar for a Corn-hole Tournament. We made the semi-finals, but fell short in the finals…FUN though. We had dinner in the Chic MDR again tonight. I ordered the Baked Onion Soup Lasagna Bolognese, the Cornmeal Crusted Chicken Breast, and the Praline Cake for dessert. It was very good. We said hello to the friends we made today, both the Diamond’s and Alchemy/RedFrog family that was seated next to us…small world today. After dinner, I considered retiring but went to the Victoriana Theater for the production show 80’s to the Max (photo above). It was a very good show and I was very glad I went. After the show, I stayed in the lobby to see the final set of the Freedom Rock Band. It was a long, FUN, and busy day on the Carnival Freedom.

Day Five -- Thursday -- December 2nd, 2021 -- Amber Cove,  Dominican Republic

Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. I didn’t even wake in the night and worked on my laptop as usual. We were entering Amber Cove when I woke and I was able to watch the Carnival Magic sail in and dock next to us. Taking it easy this morning and met the Girls for breakfast in the Posh dining room. We had a nice table located aft with a view. I took the opportunity to have my Lumberjack breakfast: Three fried eggs over easy, Toast, Bacon, Ham, Hash Browns, and Pancakes. Also Grapefruit, Tomato Juice, and Milk. A very nice hearty breakfast/brunch. I did a quick walk-around Amber Cove, I needed that after the nice breakfast. Trivia began at 1:00 pm in the Lobby with James and our team cleaned up in every game we played. Sweet. The Red Frog Pub had Happy Hour today @ 1:30 pm so time for a Fish Bowl of Jamaican Breeze. Helps one think during trivia. Some clever items and games today. We went to the Deli for lunch, between us we covered the sandwich bases: Rubens, BLT, and Buffalo Chicken, I really enjoyed Sail-away from my balcony this afternoon...it was about 4:00 pm and the weather was perfect and the seas so blue (photo).  It was nap and cabin time the rest of the late afternoon/early evening for me. We had dinner a little later this evening, it’s nice to have Anytime Dining IMHO. Tonight I ordered the Stuffed Mushrooms, Green Wedge Salad, and the Filet Mignon entree with Grand Marnier Souffle for dessert. A nice meal. The Girls went to the Casino this evening, I retired early as I had some work to do including checking in for my MSC cruise in two days. It was a FUN day in Amber Cove and on the Carnival Freedom.

Day Six — Friday --  December 3rd, 2021 -- Fun Day at Sea

Some rolling seas as we sailed just north of Cuba overnight and I slept well. Busy scheduling Covid test for Carnival Magic cruise and finalizing check-in for MSC Meraviglia this morning on our final day on the Freedom. Lovely weather today for all the outer deck activities today too.  I did the sea Day Brunch in the Posh MDR this morning with the girls. I ordered the Steak & Eggs with potatoes, bacon, & ham. Also, a French Toast to share. Another day for Trivia in the Lobby area, not as lucky today. Went on a walkabout on various decks looking for the Ship Coin and visiting the beautiful Steak House. The Steak house is so much larger and nicer than on the newer ships. I had a small Guy’s Burger before attending the Diamond/Platinum Party in the Theater at 4:00 pm. Similar to the same party on various ships…I do like the later start time. There are 51 Diamonds, 220 Platinums, and almost 1600 total guests. So we are sailing at 50% capacity or less. I was closer to the highest cruise day guest total than I’ve ever been sailing from Florida. No hors d’oeuvres nor Tito’s Table, but if you took the pre-fixed drinks you could have several. The Captain and Staff were introduced (photo) and some entertainment. I met the girls and other friends at Alchemy and we had dinner at the Seafood Shack. It used to be a tradition for me to eat there on last night and for the girls, they can pack and be casual. It was very good food and the weather was perfect for dining alfresco. We went to the Punchliner Comedy Club for our only comedy show of the cruise…it was meh but in fairness to the comedian a scheduled PG13 show. It’s been interesting to see guests that are ‘groupies’ of particular events or activities in Florida since there are many repeat cruisers. Many just follow the Comedians, some it is Trivia all day, of course, the loyal Piano Barbarians, the outdoor Sun Lounge Lizards, and more… It’s not just Casino addicts sailing. I retired early to do some packing preparation. It was a nice final Sea Day on the Carnival Freedom.

Debarkation — Saturday --  December 4th, 2021 -- Port of Miami
Smooth seas overnight. I woke early and had plenty of time to update this blog and finish packing.  Diamond meet time is 7:15 am in the Chic MDR on deck 3.  Some delay but we debarked about 8:15 am and went through the face-recognition procedure and was on the street waiting for the shuttle to the Parking Garage.  They came by quickly and we were soon at the parking garage, I got my keys from the supervisor at the garage and we were on our way north from Miami.  I had the girls safely in St. Petersburg by 2:30 pm and I was at the Villa in Pasco County by 3:30 pm.  A rather smooth debark and travel day.


Personal HIGHLIGHTS of the Cruises
Traveling with Friends and making New Friends
Nassau Port Day (never thought would make this list)
Trivia with Friends and James
Alchemy Bar
Diamond Luncheon
Red Frog Pub Happy Hours
Mongolian Wok, the Deli, and Guy's Burgers